The Streak Goes on for Mount Union
ALLIANCE, Ohio (AP) _ And after the 48th straight victory, Mount Union rested.
The Purple Raiders’ top players seemed mostly anxious to get to bed Saturday after beating Otterbein 44-20 to surpass Oklahoma’s 42-year-old NCAA-record winning streak of 47 games.
``I’m going to sleep,″ wide receiver Adam Marino said after catching nine passes for 209 yards and a touchdown.
Asked how he was going to celebrate, running back Chuck Moore said, ``Go to bed.″ He earned the sleep with a career-high 180 yards on 26 carries and four touchdowns.
The Purple Raiders said they were relieved the streak-setter was behind them.
``These games, that’s what you like to play for,″ quarterback Gary Smeck said after completing 15-of-26 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. ``But I’m glad it’s over. Now we’ll get back in our routine. No more press conferences on Tuesdays.″
The team’s focus will return to winning a fourth straight NCAA Division III championship and a fifth this decade.
``When you win a national championship, it’s more of a culminating event from a season of hard work,″ said coach Larry Kehres, who is 144-16-3 in 14 years at the northeast Ohio school. ``This is not quite that.″
Senior defensive tackle Matt Domin said there was no comparison between winning a title game and extending a streak.
``National championships are a lot better to accomplish,″ he said. ``I’ll probably think more of it (the streak) when the season’s over and I’m done playing football.″
Kehres said that in the locker room before the game, ``I told them I was nervous and I’d understand it they were tense.″
Smeck completed 10 passes in the first half, but they went for 205 yards and two touchdowns as the Purple Raiders built a 28-7 lead. Smeck, leading an offense that has four seniors listed among its top 22 players, hit Marino on a 39-yard bomb on the team’s first play.
``That first quarter was almost like a nightmare for us,″ Otterbein coach Wally Hood said.
The game was played before a record crowd of 7,132 in Mount Union Stadium, which seats 5,000 people. The Purple Raiders have a national title banner for each of the four light poles around the field.
Mount Union, a 2,000-student school midway between Canton and Youngstown, has won 70 of its last 71 games.
There was no pep rally, bonfire or parade for the players during the week as Kehres attempted to keep the focus on the game. Besides, there probably wouldn’t have been much interest from the student body, since few of the students have seen the Purple Raiders lose and almost all have come to expect a national title.
Only the fans and the media seemed to get emotionally involved with the game’s historic implications.
With the kickoff still 45 minutes away, the public address announcer asked those without a seat in the already full general-admission sections to stand behind the chain-link fence circling the field. They stood three and four deep until the final gun.
The crowd included the usual assortment of fans to be found at a nationally televised game between Division I-A powers. There were coeds with hair dyed purple, students with the letters M-O-U-N-T painted on their chests and aging alumni who sat quietly amid the din.
There was purple everywhere, from the Raiders’ all-purple uniforms and the lettering on the field to the large purple scoreboard and almost every shirt and hat in the stands.
It was a rare step into the spotlight for Mount Union, despite its four titles and 114-6-1 record this decade. More than 100 media credentials were handed out _ roughly four times the number for a typical home game.
Kehres, who has the highest winning percentage of any coach in college football history, said he didn’t welcome comparisons with Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne or Bud Wilkinson, who guided Oklahoma’s streak. He also said Mount Union never could surpass Oklahoma’s accomplishments.
``There are some things in football that are hallowed ground,″ he said. ``I should be the primary spokesman that Division III is not like Division I football. Their achievements should be treated with all the respect they merit.″